Mid-Atlantic Regional Update: No Going Back Now
No two seasons are exactly the same, that is well understood in the turf management industry and turf managers have historically excelled with the challenge of variability……in fact it’s this type of challenge that attracts many to the industry. Enter 2020. In my 20 (professional) years in the industry, I can’t recall anything that has presented the type and range of challenges that have been presented thus far in 2020.
Turf diseases, insect and weed pests are always front of mind once weather begins to break and, although often frustrating and in some cases nerve racking, a “disease” that impacts the operation from a staff, protocol, scheduling and reduced ability to fully generate revenue has proven to be something that no one was, or could have been fully prepared for. With that said, turf managers are, by far, some of the most creative problem solvers I know and in short time, I have seen and heard of how each put their unique spin in place to overcome something that there is not a “product solution” for.
Agronomically speaking, reduced inputs, cultural and chemical alike were in order in many scenarios. In order to offset, in instances when chemical inputs were applied, higher label rates were utilized to try and enhance or extend control windows. Culturally, some were able to take advantage of no or limited course play to implement aeration, verticutting, topdressing and other practices that ultimately should result in a net positive in the long run.
With all of these challenges in play, the undefeated champion of uncertainty, Mother Nature, marched along as if nothing was going on. Here is a brief summary of what has been seen to date and some potential scenarios for the near future.
Crabgrass, goosegrass and Poa annua, not always in that order, are still among the most targeted weed pests for the mid-Atlantic region. After reaching 55°F Soil Temperature averages for three consecutive days in mid-March for Northern Virginia/DC and early April in the Baltimorearea, any crabgrass that began to emerge encountered a few extended periods of unseasonably cold temperatures in mid-April and again in mid-May. Although this seemed to set it back temporarily, it didn’t completely stop it. It did, likely however, provide an assist for well-timed pre-emergent herbicides. We will see how they hold up as the heat of summer sets in.
Goosegrass emergence by historical temperature indicators came around the second week of April in NoVA/DC and early May for the Baltimore area. Like crabgrass, the cold temperatures in mid-May may have helped slow/set back emerged plants, so it will be worth seeing how that may have aided applications targeting its emergence/progression.
Figure 1 - Soil Temperatures beginning March 1
Poa annua had a very limited “off-season” as much of the winter in the mid-Atlantic was on the mild side. This has likely contributed, at least in part its continual proliferation over the course of the winter months and has individual plants already tiring out creating a less uniform collapse. Other contributing factors for its weakened state may be based on more common spring practices such as, although not limited to:
Figure 2 - Poa annua visually stressed compared to CBG in a mixed stand 6.10.20Figure 3 - Poa annua on a Putting Green with Trimmit Program Implemented
- Low carbohydrate/energy reserves following seedhead production
- Plant growth regulator use (particularly products containing paclobutrazol or flurprimidol)
- ABW larvae feeding (covered in later section)
- Periods of cloudy and wet weather
- In many cases most pronounced in areas also under traffic stress or that drain poorly/surface drainage paths
It’s no surprise that as strange of a year that 2020 has been, that disease pressures would follow suit.
There are always a few outliers and during a short period of warm temperatures in mid-April, I saw the first Dollar Spot (c. jacksonii) symptoms of the year. As expected, this was short lived as extremely low overnight temperatures were reintroduced and shut pathogen progression down.
Figure 4 - Active Dollar Spot 4.13.20
The mild winter and to some extent, the same warm temperatures that pushed Dollar Spot to manifest, also brought Bermudagrass out of dormancy early which also brought with it some very pronounced Large Patch (r. solani). Cool stretches put the brakes back on and C4 grasses went in and out of dormancy, slowing any recovery from pathogens such as Large Patch or Spring Dead Spot (o. korrae, o.herpotricha).
Figure 5 - Large Patch on a Bermuda Grass Fairway 4.25.20
Figure 6 - Symptoms of o.korrae on a Bermudagrass Fairway
Figure 7 - Closer look at o.korrae symptoms
Figure 8 - Symptoms of o. herpotricha 6.15.20
The one disease that came to the front early that, after a mild winter and periods of extended wet cool periods this spring, wasn’t a surprise was Anthracnose (c. cereale) on putting greens. What came as a slight surprise was to hear it was attacking creeping bentgrass as well as poa annua.
Figure 9 - Anthracnose on Putting Green 5.13.20
Annual Bluegrass Weevil (ABW) continues to be the most difficult insect pest to manage in the mid-Atlantic, much due to its ability to produce multiple generations often lasting well into the fall months. Every year seems to start out a little different than the previous, but by the time early June rolls around, we tend to see the conclusion of the overwintered (OW) generation. What happens in between March and that point and certainly once the first summer generation begins, can vary from year to year.
In 2020, the mid-Atlantic, particularly Northern Virginia/DC and Baltimore area, started out about 7-10 days ahead of 2019, however by April 15, we were at the exact same point as 2019 by measure of Growing Degree Days (GDD) and in many cases insect development. From that point we have significantly slowed and have fallen almost 7-10 GDD behind the same point in 2019.
This stop/go scenario scattered adult peaks, egg lay and to some degree larval development. In most cases, it allowed a little more time to implement control timings, but as there always seems to be a counterweight, many of those periods came with adverse weather such as wind and excessive rains.
As alluded to in the section intro, the conclusion of the overwintered generation appeared to be last week (week of June 6) as very few larvae were present in local samples and the first Teneral (new adults) were observed.
WeevilTrak will soon be turning to Stage 4 of the Optimal Control Strategy early this week at most Northern Virginia/DC sites and moving across into the Baltimore area near the end of the week/early the week of June 22nd.
After some rainy periods throughout the first half of May, the drier weather at the end of the month into June have ants moving mounds into fine areas such as tees and green surfaces. Selective targeting of ants with pyrethroids can be tricky if potentially pushing resistance of ABW is a concern. However if, you a seeking some options, you can find information on Ant Control in this article available on Greencast.com.
Figure 10 - Ant mounds on a Putting Green - 6.15.20
Some other insect pests that haven’t fully integrated into the region, but have had some isolated sitings are European Crane Fly and Spotted Lantern Fly. For now, these pests aren’t considered high priority for Turf or Ornamental managers, but have shown a pattern and history of being a costly nuicance in other areas of the country.
A return focus to nematode-related issues became prevalent over the past few years, but along with it, came a series of new available control options and detailing of programs to address severe cases. Although there is still a presence, implementing these programs have seemed to slow major outbreaks and kept populations at manageable levels more recently. If you do suspect potential issues, sampling is advisable to get a baseline count/type present for the season and help prepare for a treatment program as appropriate. A list of Nematode Labs and sampling methods is available on GreenCastOnline.com. To date, in limited samplings that I have had done, low counts have generally been discovered in those particular samples, some of which had prior history of robust populations. Consulting with your local Syngenta Territory Manager to develop a strategy can assist with your preparation from initial scouting and sampling on through to implementing control options.
Wishing each of you and your families continued health and safety and I hope to see you all soon as things return to some kind of normalcy. Until then, please stay in touch through any other available outlets!
All the best,
Sam Camuso – Territory Manager (MD/DC/NoVA)
Twitter : @samcamuso
About the author
Sam Camuso is a Syngenta Turf & Landscape Territory Manager located in the Northeastern US. You may also follow Sam on Twitter: